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The Race for the 2021 AFL “Following Football” MVP: Part 1

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Roar Guru
1st July, 2021
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We promised to keep the Roar readership updated on the 2021 race for our “Following Football” AFL MVP.

With eight rounds to go, Marcus Bontempelli has established himself as the man to catch in most estimations, and since our selection is simply based on the collection of 21 separate methodologies of recognising outstanding players – “team of the week”, Brownlow-style voting, fantasy scoring, coach and media recognitions of the top 3-7 players in each game, etc. – it stands to reason that he leads the “Following Football” vote totals at this juncture in our MVP race as well.

“Following Football” uses some simple algorithms and data collection to forecast game and season outcomes, and has correctly mirrored the Brownlow Medal race for the six years we’ve been functioning with the exception of 2018, when we had Tom Mitchell second to Max Gawn (and we still believe Gawn was the superior player that season!).

The current list of top names will look familiar to readers of this thread who saw something similar after round 11:

1st Marcus Bontempelli (WD). 584 total votes (prev #2) 38 colour points over 8 games

2nd Clayton Oliver (ME) 478.5 votes (prev #1) 31 colour pts over 11 gms

3rd Darcy Parish (ES) 446.5 votes (prev #3) 30 colour pts over 6 gms

4th Sam Walsh (CA), 409 votes (prev #7) 25 colour pts over 9 gms

5th Christian Petracca (ME) 405 votes (prev #11) 16 colour pts over 5 gms

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6th Jack Macrae (WD) 400.5 votes (prev #5) 20 colour pts over 7 gms

7th Ollie Wines (PA) 396 votes (prev #9) 22 colour pts over 9 gms

8th Max Gawn (ME) 373.5 votes (prev #8) 19 colour pts over 6 gms

9th Taylor Walker (AD) 369 votes (prev #6) 18 colour pts over 5 gms

10th Hugh McCluggage (BR) 365.5 votes (prev #4) 17 colour pts over 7 gms

Every member of the top nine from four weeks ago is still in the top ten today, but the Bont has pulled away from his closest competitors in June to put a large gap between himself and Oliver, who led at the halfway mark. Bontempelli’s 76 total votes in Round 15 is one of the three highest of the season (however, because of slight changes in the criteria we’re able to utilize, comparing round-to-round is a bit of apples-to-oranges).

It’s hard to imagine anyone not in this top ten catching him for the MVP – OR the Brownlow. Walsh would be our dark horse choice if Carlton can put some wins together in the last eight games. Neither Parish nor Oliver received blue codes for R15 – Merrett and Petracca dominated their respective games. Walsh alone emulates Bontempelli’s regular domination of his team’s successes and is close enough to catch him if the Bont cools off for a trio of games.

The total votes we’ve discussed above; you might need reminding about “colour points”, however. Once we’ve tallied all the votes from a round, we return to each game and code the four highest-scoring players with colours: blue (1st), red (2nd), green (3rd), and yellow (4th). Those are designed to resemble how Brownlow officials vote, with the fourth recognition meant to allow for a margin of error in the selection process. We weight the colour codes 5-3-2-1 because it gives the top player the same “first equals second plus third” balance as the Brownlow does.

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(TL:DR? It’s just another way of comparing players.)

Here are the vote totals for each club:
1. Melbourne (12-2-0) – 3246 total votes
2. Western BD (11-3-0) – 3159 votes
3. Brisbane (10-4-0) – 2909 votes
4. Geelong (10-4-0) – 2816.5 votes
5. Port Adelaide (10-4-0) – 2787 votes
6. Essendon (6-8-0) – 2707 votes
7. Sydney (8-6-0) – 2628 votes
8. West Coast (8-6-0) – 2612.5 votes
9. GWS Giants (6-7-1) – 2519 votes
10. Carlton (5-9-0) – 2419.5 votes
11. Richmond (7-7-0) – 2367 votes
12. Fremantle (7-7-0) – 2308 votes
13. St Kilda (6-8-0) – 2268 votes
14. Collingwood (4-10-0) – 2261.5 votes
15. Adelaide (5-9-0) – 2259.5 votes
16. Gold Coast (4-10-0) – 2147.5 votes
17. Hawthorn (4-10-0) – 2117.5 votes
18. North Melbourne (2-11-1) – 1960.5 votes

Let’s break each team’s list balance down, one by one. There are 641 men who have spent at least one round on the game day roster (even the unused medical subs get a game credit from the AFL, so they also get a single vote in our system). We’ll examine the players in the top 100, list those in the second hundred, and document the number in each group of hundred thereafter. It’s also interesting to note which players have not contributed to the team’s success so far this season, either through injury, their own poor play or “coach’s decision”. This will take more than one article, so we’ll begin with seven teams here and continue with the other eleven in part two.

(To help you compare your team with others: in an 18-team league, the average club would have precisely one of the top 18 players, 3 of the top 54, and exactly 5½ of the top 99. There should similarly be about 5½ in each group of one hundred, and the average number of players used so far is 35. Finally, the 18th-highest player for a typical club would average around #315 overall, and the 22nd-highest player would sit around #388.)

1.MELBOURNE (ELO-Following Football rating of 67.8 after R15, 3rd place)

Top Players (3 of the top 18; 7 of the top 54; 8 of the top 99):
#2 Clayton Oliver – 478.5 votes (31 color points in 11 games)
#5 Christian Petracca – 405 votes (16 in 5)
#8 Max Gawn – 373.5 votes (19 in 6)
#31 Steven May – 248.5 votes (8 in 2)
#35 Christian Salem – 229 votes (12 in 4)
#45 Jake Lever – 207.5 votes (5 in 3)
#50 Tom McDonald – 198.5 votes (9 in 3)
#97 Ed Langdon – 144.5 votes (4 in 2)

#100-199 = 4 (Fritsch, Harmes, Jackson, Pickett)*
*These are listed alphabetically, rather than in ranking order.

#200-299 = 3; #300-399 = 5; #400-499 = 7; #500-599 = 4.
Total players so far = 31.

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The 18th-ranked player for Melbourne is Charlie Spargo (#313 overall), and the 22nd-ranked player is Tom Sparrow (ranked #426 overall). Among the Demons players not among the top 18 right now are Ben Brown, Majak Daw, Michael Hubbard, Neville Jetta, Nathan Jones, Jake Melksham, Harrison Petty, and Adam Tomlinson (also listed alphabetically).

2.WESTERN BULLDOGS (ELO-FF rating of 80.0, 1st place)

Top players (2 of the top 18; 4 of the top 54; 8 of the top 99):
#1 Marcus Bontempelli – 584 votes (38 color points in 8 games)
#6 Jack Macrae – 400.5 votes (20 in 7)
#28 Tom Libertore – 257 votes (9 in 5)
#48 Aaron Naughton – 200 votes (7 in 5)
#57 Josh Bruce – 189.5 votes (7 in 2)
#77 Adam Treloar – 161 votes (9 in 4)
#80 Bailey Dale – 159.5 votes (4 in 2)
#81 Bailey Smith – 158.5 votes (8 in 2)

#100-199 = 5 (Daniel, Dunkley, English, Hunter, Keath)
#200-299 = 2; #300-399 = 5; #400-499 = 8; #500-599 = 9
Total players so far = 40.

The 18th-ranked player for Western is Stefan Martin (ranked #384); the 22nd-ranked player is Patrick Lipinski (at #401). Among the Bulldogs players not among the top 18 right now are Hayden Crozier, Zane Cordy, Mitch Hannan, Lin Jong, Toby Maclean, Josh Schache, and Mitch Wallis.

3.BRISBANE (ELO-FF rating of 76.4; 2nd place)

Top players (2 of the top 18; 4 of the top 54; 7 of the top 99):
#10 Hugh McCluggage – 365.5 votes (17 color points in 7 games)
#13 Jarryd Lyons – 346 votes (19 in 5)
#24 Dayne Zorko – 283 votes (15 in 5)
#29 Daniel Rich – 256 votes (11 in 4)
#63 Harris Andrews – 181 votes (3 in 2)
#77 Charlie Cameron – 161 votes (7 in 4)
#82 Zac Bailey – 158 votes (7 in 3)

#100-199 = 5 (Daniher, Hipwood, McCarthy, Neale, Robinson).
#200-299 = 5; #300-399 = 4; #400-499 = 5; #500-599 = 4.
Total players so far = 31.

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The 18th ranked player for Brisbane is Devon Robertson (at #337); the 22nd-ranked player is Keidan Coleman (at #401). Among the Lions players not among the top 18 right now are Callum Ah Chee, Nakia Cockatoo, Cam Ellis-Yolman, Ryan Lester, Rhys Mathieson, Jaxon Prior, and Cam Rayner.

Tom Hawkins of the Cats celebrates a goal

Tom Hawkins (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

4.GEELONG (ELO-FF rating of 65.2; 4th highest)

Top Players (none of the top 18; 5 of the top 54; 7 of the top 99) =
#19 Tom Stewart – 315.5 votes (16 color points in 6 games)
#26 Cam Guthrie – 275 votes (16 in 5)
#36 Tom Hawkins – 224.5 votes (9 in 3)
#37 Joel Selwood – 217.5 votes (12 in 4)
#54 Mitch Duncan – 191.5 votes (10 in 3)
#70 Jeremy Cameron – 170 votes (10 in 2)
#96 Brandon Parfitt – 147.5 votes (3 in 1)

#100-199 = 7 (Blicavs, Henderson, Henry, Menegola, Rohan, I. Smith, Tuohy)
#200-299 = 4; #300-399 = 6; #400-499 = 4; #500-599 = 4.
Total players so far = 34.

The 18th-highest scoring player for Geelong right now is Rhys Stanley (ranked #299); the 22nd-highest ranked player, believe it or not, is former MVP Paddy Dangerfield (ranked #331). Among the Cats players not yet among that top 18 right now are Jed Bews, Luke Dalhaus, Jake Kolodjasnish, Grien Miers, Quinten Narkle, and Esava Ratagolea.

5.PORT ADELAIDE (ELO-FF rating of 61.9; 5th place)

Top players (1 of the top 18; 2 of the top 54; 6 of the top 99):
#7 Ollie Wines – 396 votes (22 color points in 9 games)
#22 Travis Boak – 285.5 votes (18 in 4)
#57 Karl Amon – 189.5 votes (15 in 4)
#73 Charlie Dixon – 165 votes (3 in 3)
#85 Aliir Aliir – 156.5 votes (5 in 2)
#94 Dan Houston – 149.5 votes (5 in 2)

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#100-199 = 7 (Butters, Drew, Fantasia, Gray, Lycett, Motlop, Rozee).
#200-299 = 7; #300-399 = 5; #400-499 = 3; #500-599 = 5.
Total players so far = 34.

The 18th-ranked player for Port Adelaide is Todd Marshall (ranked #266); the 22nd-ranked player is Kane Farrell (#327 ranked in the AFL). Among the Power players with fewer votes than the top 18 are Riley Bonner, Xavier Duursma, Martin Frederick, Hamish Hartlett, Peter Ladhams, and Tom Rockliff.

6.ESSENDON (ELO-FF rating of 51.0, good for 7th place)

Top players (2 of the top 18; 4 of the top 54; 6 of the top 99):
#3 Darcy Parish – 446.5 votes (30 color points in 6 games).
#12 Zach Merrett – 354.5 votes (21 in 7).
#51 Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti – 195 votes (4 in 2)
#53 Jake Stringer – 193 votes (6 in 2)
#74 Jordan Ridley – 163.5 votes (6 in 2).
#82 Nick Hind – 158 votes (5 in 2).

#100-199 = 4 (Heppell, Hooker, Langford, McGrath).
#200-299 = 8; #300-399 = 6; #400-499 = 3; #500-599 = 6.
Total players so far = 37.

The 18th-highest vote total for Essendon belongs to Brayden Ham (#289 overall); the #22nd player would be Alec Waterman (#385 overall). Among the Bombers whose vote totals fail to place them within the top 18 players right now are Tom Cutler, Aaron Francis, Matt Guelfi, Michael Hurley, Irving Mosquito, Dylan Shiel, Devon Smith, and David Zaharakis.

7.SYDNEY (ELO-FF rating of 46.3, good for 11th overall)

Top players (none of the top 18; 4 of the top 54; 6 of the top 99):
#20 Callum Mills – 295.5 votes (12 color points in 4 games).
#33 Luke Parker – 238 votes (8 in 3).
#37 Lance Franklin – 217.5 votes (13 in 3).
#54 Isaac Heeney – 191.5 votes (12 in 4).
#64 Tom Hickey – 180 votes (10 in 3).
#84 John Lloyd – 157 votes (no color points yet).

#100-199 = 6 players (Dawson, Florent, Gulden, Kennedy, Papley, and Wicks).
#200-299 = 8; #300-399 = 3; #400-499 = 4; #500-599 = 8.
Total players so far = 36.

The 18th ranked player for Sydney is James Rowbottom (currently #269 in the AFL); the 22nd-rated player is Hayden McLean, who’s ranked #330 on our list right now. Among those Swans with fewer votes gathered than Rowbottom are Nick Blakey, George Hewett, Logan McDonald, Lewis Melican, Sam Reid, Ben Ronke, Callum Sinclair, and Lewis Taylor.

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